Group starts petition to privatize NC alcohol sales

Here is a snippet from PrivatizeNC’s Change.org petition:

North Carolina, along with 17 other states maintains a government monopoly on the sales of distilled alcohol. This means that private citizens buying at retail must go to a ABC store operated by one of 188 local boards with oversight from North Carolina state. In addition, ABC licensees such as bars and restaurants must purchase all their spirituous liquor from these government owned stores. Such a system stands in stark contrast to the way we buy nearly everything else. …

The time has come to modernize the system and follow the other 32 states which have already done so — including our neighbors, South Carolina. Visit a liquor store directly to our southern border and you will see private citizens owning, operating and working directly with distributors and producers. The results are a fantastic variety of goods, competition and a system that works for normal people.

Thanks to a succession of scandals in 2009-10 there was some interest in privatizing North Carolina’s ABC system. Then-Gov. Bev Perdue was interested in it before she wasn’t, extricating herself from the issue with a ridiculous argument ad misericordiam neptis, to wit:

I don’t want to be the governor who holds my little granddaughter’s hand as I walk down the aisles of Wal-Mart or Target or Rose’s to the toy center and have to pass shelves and shelves of liquor.

The John Locke Foundation’s Agenda 2010 discussed reforming the ABC system, noting among other things that:

  • The two main concerns with ABC reform are preventing social ills and maintaining state revenue.
  • As for the social concerns, studies have shown that alcohol consumption is not affected by who sells the alcohol — the state or private licensees. Deregulation in West Virginia and Iowa resulted in less per-capita alcohol consumption (see graphs). Deregulation should therefore not cause increases in such things as drunk driving and domestic abuse.
  • North Carolina already allows liquor-by-the-drink in restaurants, bars, taverns, and other privately run enterprises. The state also allows beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores, convenience marts, specialty shops, restaurants, taverns, bars, and other privately owned establishments — and to be sold at competitive prices that vary from outlet to outlet, town to town.
  • Another social concern should be public corruption. State control imposed in lieu of market forces invites the very sorts of scandals that brought privatization to the discussion.
  • As for maintaining the $262 million in revenue to state and local budgets from liquor sales, that is no real concern at all. State leaders could use a menu of sales and excise taxes and fees as part of deregulation.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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